12/18/13, "Early ice causing problems on Lake Michigan," Chicago Tribune, Meredith Rodriguez "Icebreaking efforts begin in earnest; New Year's Eve cruise canceled"
"Low temperatures in recent weeks have quickened the annual chill of
Lake Michigan, growing sheets of ice a month earlier than usual,
disrupting holiday plans for local cruise lines and bringing winter
chores for harbor masters and industrial shippers.
The early pockets of ice have prompted one Chicago cruise line to
cancel its New Year's Eve fireworks cruise for the first time in five
years. The company that manages harbors on the lakefront has started
efforts to protect their docks from ice. And in the northern part of
Lake Michigan, the Coast Guard has been busy breaking through ice, making sure shipping crews can make their scheduled deliveries.
As of Monday, more than 13 percent of Lake Michigan was covered by
ice, compared with its icelessness this time last year, said George
Leshkevich, a physical scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Over the
past five years, the average ice coverage on Lake Michigan around this
time of year was closer to 2 percent, according to laboratory data.
In fact, it was not until
Jan. 22 this year that ice cover compared with the amount on the lake
now. The laboratory predicts that up to 62 percent of the Great Lakes
will be frozen over this winter, above the long-term average of 55
"With this cold spell we've been having, ice we find has been forming
earlier on the lakes than ... the past few years," Leshkevich said.
"(Forecasts) are indicating a season with a little bit above normal ice
In Chicago, Shoreline Sightseeing had to refund about 70 tickets for
its New Year's Eve lake event, largely because the boats they would
have used are small open-air vessels, tough for sightseers, said Amy
Hartnett, Shoreline's director of sales and marketing.
While boats have been moved out of lakefront harbors since
mid-November, there is work that must be done now to minimize damage to
docks due to more than a foot of ice, said Scott Stevenson, vice
president of Westrec Marinas, the company that manages Chicago's
harbors. A Chicago Park District-owned tugboat, The Commissioner, runs
up and down the channels in Burnham Harbor to break the ice and keep it
from building up too much pressure on the docks. Other harbors have
underwater tube systems around the docs that blow compressed air bubbles
to break down the ice.
"We've found that by breaking up the ice, we have less damage," Stevenson said. "When ice moves around, it can be damaging."
The ice forming around Chicago pales in comparison with the problems
that the Coast Guard has been battling farther north. In the upper Great
Lakes, ice-cutting operations are making way for commercial vessels in
and out of the Port of Green Bay, said Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf of
the Coast Guard's public affairs office.
The Coast Guard's annual operation to retrieve buoys and other
navigational aids that would be damaged under the ice, usually between
October and late December, was also more complicated this year because
of the early freeze, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Yaw, a
spokesman out of the Coast Guard's Cleveland office.
Clearing a path through the ice is vital for the U.S. shipping industry, which can move 20 percent of its annual total cargo during
the ice season, or about 16 million to 18 million tons, said Glen
Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers' Association, a trade
group. Every year, 25 million to 35 million tons of iron ore are shipped
to the lower end of Lake Michigan, particularly to the Indiana steel
mills in Gary, Indiana Harbor and Burns Harbor.
The ice is getting formidable, particularly in the lower St. Mary's
River, which connects Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes.
"Most of the iron ore and the biggest coal shipping ports are on Lake
Superior, so if our ships can't get through the St. Mary's River, the
steel mills won't get their iron ore and power plants won't get their
coal," Nekvasil said.
Two Coast Guard icebreakers as well as one from Canada are working on the river,
"This is shaping up to be a very tough winter," he said. "We have had
a number of mild winters recently, and one of our concerns has been
that the crews on the icebreakers, with mild winters, they do not get
the experience that they need.
"But they're doing a good job," Nekvasil said." image above, "Ice abounds in Lake Michigan, as viewed from Northerly Island on Tuesday.
(Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune / December 17, 2013). via Free Rep.
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